|No. 389 of the ongoing ITYWLTMT series of audio montages is this week's Friday Blog and Podcast. Mobile followers can listen to the montage on our Pod-O-Matic Channel, and desktop users can simply use the embedded player found on this page.|
This week, I programmed a Brahms week – with the two concertos for violin and violin and cello, the two serenades and over the next couple of days, symphonies 1 to 3 to complete the cycle started Wednesday with the Fourth. This Friday montage features symphonies 1 and 3 from the complete Brahms cycle Riccardo Muti recorded with the Philadelphia Orchestra for Philips in the late 1980’s/early 1990’s.
Using power of suggestion and conscious engineering, Leopold Stokowski (1912-1938) initiated the idea of “The Philadelphia Sound”. He famously introduced unsynchronized bowing and a magical air of conducting without a baton. Sergei Rachmaninoff was hopelessly captivated — the sound always seemed more Russian than Viennese — and wrote his Symphony No. 3 (among other works) for what became known as The Fabulous Philadelphians. Eugene Ormandy (1936-1980) is said to have insured the sound’s continuation by doubling second violins with violas, sometimes too indiscriminately, maybe to cover significant lapses in his conducting technique.
During his tenure in Philadelphia from 1980 to 1992, Riccardo Muti took the sound a bit underground. He stated that his approach was to remain faithful to the intent of the composer, and this meant a change from applying the lush "Philadelphia Sound" to all repertoire; however, many of his recordings with that orchestra largely seem to do away with its hallmark sound. As the late, longtime violinist Morris Shulik put it, “He said that when we play Brahms, we should have a Brahms sound. When we play Ravel, it should be a Ravel sound. But all he ever got from us was a Martucci sound.”
YouTube has many recordings of Ormandy performing the two works featured today with the Philadelphia Orchestra (and its distinctive sound) and I retained versions from the 1950’s for you to compare:
Symphony no. 1
Symphony no. 3
And, here the complete Muti cycle, including the symphionies 2 and 4 and usual “filler”pieces (including a good version of the Alto Rhapsody with Jessye Norman as soloist)
I think you will love this music too.